Low-paying jobs may mean ‘significantly faster’ cognitive decline later in life, new study finds

Reducing your income regularly can affect not only your savings but also your cognitive function later in life.

Workers who were consistently low-wage workers experienced “significantly faster” memory decline in old age, compared with those who never received low wages at the end of their careers, a new study shows. study This week from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

How fast? The researchers found that for every decade, people with a history of low wages experienced more than an additional year of cognitive aging.

“Our study provides new evidence that persistent exposure to low wages during peak earnings is associated with accelerated memory decline later in life,” Katrina Kezios, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University, wrote in a statement.

The researchers defined low wages as any hourly wage that was less than two-thirds of the median federal wage in that particular year.

Using that definition, they classified records from a previous study of 2,879 participants born between 1936 and 1941 into three categories: never low wages, intermittent low wages, or always low wages from 1992 to 2004, when they aged between 51 and 2004. 68 years old.records are from Health and Retirement Researcha representative sample of 20,000 Americans over the age of 50.

The team then looked at how these participants viewed their memory decline 12 years after retirement. During that time, those who stayed in low-paying jobs until the end of their lives had a year of cognitive decline compared to those who didn’t.

The findings were presented this week at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference and will be published soon in American Journal of EpidemiologyThe study adds to a growing body of research supporting a link between low-wage earners and different health outcomes.

“Low-wage jobs are associated with health outcomes such as depressive symptoms, obesity, and high blood pressure, which are risk factors for cognitive aging,” the researchers wrote. But until now, they add, “no previous study has examined The specific relationship between low wages and cognitive functioning in later life.”

How to deal with this public health problem? One solution, according to the researchers, is to raise the federal minimum wage.

In the US, the minimum wage has remained at $7.25 an hour since 2009, failing to keep pace with inflation, the researchers noted. At the same time, the number of low-income earners is considerable. In 2019, the think tank Brookings Institution, established More than 53 million people, almost half of all US workers aged 18 to 64, work in low-wage jobs.

The findings suggest that social policies that improve the financial well-being of low-wage workers “may be particularly beneficial for cognitive health,” said the study’s senior author, Adina Zeki Al Hazzouri, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University.

“Future work should rigorously examine the number of dementia cases and excess years of cognitive aging, which could be prevented under different hypothetical scenarios, leading to higher minimum hourly wages,” she wrote.

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